Climate

On Climate Change, Drought & Collective Action

May 5, 2021

“All we knew is that we wanted to protect the land.”

Phyllis Faber, MALT Founder

In my first few weeks as CEO, I’ve been humbled to meet the visionary Phyllis Faber, one of MALT’s founders; Bob Berner, our first executive director; and ranchers and farmers who were early adopters of agricultural conservation easements.

With over half of the vulnerable farmland in Marin County now permanently protected, the collective benefit to the community is impossible to quantify. Social goods range from beautiful, local food to conservation of biodiversity. Innovative practices such as carbon farming, rotational grazing and feed supplements to reduce methane emissions from beef and dairy cattle herald the potential for Marin County to model regenerative agriculture — a future of nourishing and sufficient food for everyone, produced in harmony with a healthy Earth.

The evident impacts of climate change are forcing an evolution of agriculture locally, nationally and globally. In Northern California, we are acutely aware of what appears to be the worst drought in at least 50 years — and it’s not yet summer.

Dry ranchland in West Marin – April 2021.

MALT has responded by designing and launching in fewer than eight days an emergency six-month Drought Resilience & Water Security (DRAWS) initiative to help farmers and ranchers in Marin County develop long-term conservation practices and implement solutions that help provide sustainable access to water. The MALT Board allocated an initial $250,000 to the DRAWS initiative, and fittingly, we centered our Earth Day fundraising campaign around DRAWS.

As with any pressing problem facing humanity and the planet, collective action is essential to catalyze meaningful change. A coalition of organizations in Marin County has come together to help farmers and ranchers access drought relief services so they can continue to produce foods and fibers for our community — and preserve livelihoods.

MALT founders focused singularly and successfully on the conservation of Marin’s agricultural lands. We know now that the future of food systems requires innovation and inclusion. Agriculture and forestry activities globally generate 24% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Project Drawdown. Yet sustainable, organic farming has the potential to transform agriculture to a carbon-negative system throughout the value chain.

New research suggests that feeding cattle a few ounces of dried seaweed daily can reduce methane emissions by 60-80% — check out this Science Friday episode featuring Albert Straus, of Straus Family Creamery, an early adopter of methane digesters that transform manure into energy. And MALT-protected Stemple Creek Ranch is one of three test sites for carbon farming, the process of sequestering carbon in the soil, which is augmented by rotational grazing of cattle.

Rotational grazing practices in action in West Marin.

Soil carbon storage improves retention of nutrients, so that pastures produce more forage for cattle; with rotational grazing, their manure provides nutrients, further building the soil. Better soil improves retention of water, replenishing the water table and natural springs. These synergistic effects of regenerative agriculture bring us full circle to Phyllis, who imagines mulching much of Marin to mitigate climate change — and create resilience to its increasing effects, like this historic drought.

We appreciate your support of MALT, our mission and our community of farmers and ranchers who persevere during challenging times to provide food, generate environmental benefits and preserve the natural beauty of our region.

Warmly,

Thane Kreiner, PhD
Chief Executive Officer